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FCC Votes to End Net Neutrality

Landmark decision threatens internet freedom, democracy in US

Stephen Melkisethian

Stephen Melkisethian

Heidi Budd, Pilot Editor-in-Chief

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Earlier this afternoon, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to end Net Neutrality regulations, setting into motion the process of granting major internet providers complete and utter control over the internet and their customers’ experiences with it.

Plain and simple, Net Neutrality is a set of rules first implemented by the FCC in March 2015 detailing how internet access was set to become a government-regulated entity like any public utility such as gas, electric, or water. The decision made by the FCC today would revoke those guidelines, opening up internet as a “free market.”

Proponents of ending Net Neutrality argue that a free market will promote competition amongst internet providers, forcing them to provide a wider range of services to consumers while vying for their business.

Ajit Pai (FCC Chairman) is a strong advocate for ending Net Neutrality; he gave a speech to the commission before the members voted.

“We are helping consumers and promoting competition. Broadband providers will have more incentive to build networks, especially to underserved areas,” Pai said.

This line of thinking is not widely shared, however. When Pai first expressed his plans for Net Neutrality in November of this year, they were met with immediate backlash. Public scorn and outrage has lasted from then all the way until now, with people angrily tweeting, texting, and writing letters to representatives in droves, all in the hopes that the decision will be reversed.

The effects of the vote will not go into effect right away, however, as it will take a few months for deregulation to begin. Until then, there is still hope for those not in favor of the decision. As outlined in the Congressional Review Act, Congress has 60 days to issue a disapproval resolution which, if enacted, rendors the agency decision void.

Yet, with constant updates and opinions on this issue flood in and are circulated, many may find themselves lost and possibly even wondering: What does this have to do with me?

However, as Americans and as students living in 2017, an age of ever-growing technological influence, a better question might be: What doesn’t this decision have to do with me?

The original guidelines of Net Neutrality set in place in 2015 guaranteed every user equal access to all websites, social media platforms, and resources. Without them, different internet providers will be, free to charge extra for internet access to services deemed ‘luxury’ or ‘high-tier’ like Netflix, Hulu, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and others.

However, the most frightening aspect of Net Neutrality lies not in its affects on our social media presences, but rather in the reality that removing regulations put on major providers renders them free to slow speeds to, censor, or altogether block access to certain sites or resources, putting control over what we see, read, and know into the hands of a few large corporations. This means limited, censored, or even no access to news, facts, research, or even government activities.

The assault on Net Neutrality is a reality we as an educated public cannot ignore. In essence, the end to these regulations poses a threat to democracy as we know it. If we allow our government to hand over control of what cannot be denied is a necessity to modern-day communication, commerce, and learning, we put ourselves at the mercy of ‘Big Business,’ sacrificing our ability to think, communicate, research, and learn freely in favor of submitting ourselves to the opinions and whims of whatever company we so happen to pay for an internet connection.

As students, decreased or eliminated regulations on Net Neutrality would lead to higher costs to schools for full access to web resources, and if such coverage could not be afforded, a submission to a lesser and unfulfilling education, one that wouldn’t present students with all the facts and would prevent them from making informed and responsible decisions for themselves and their society.

The end of Net Neutrality would be the end of the people’s right to know, the people’s right to choose. Outside the limits of political party lines, Net Neutrality protects all Americans’ ability to be up to date and knowledgeable on current events, to fact-check their sources, to make compelling arguments for themselves and their beliefs, and to understand the world and make informed decisions in her best interests and in theirs.

Congress still has the ability to overturn the vote, it is not too late to save our internet independence, but we must make our voices heard. Oftentimes, we forget that the purpose of our elected officials is truly to be public servants. We do not elect them so that they can fight for their own views but rather so that they can fight for ours. And, at this crucial time, it is imperative that our representatives know our stance.

Writing letters to your representatives, using apps like Countable to give your officials feedback, Tweeting to congress-members, and visiting sites like battleforthenet.com are all ways that you can fight for Net Neutrality and the preservation of freedom and democracy online. Let your voice be heard, silence cannot be afforded when so much is at stake.

Find out who your congressmen are here.

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